Democracy indices are quantitative and comparative assessments of the state of democracy[1] for different countries according to various definitions of democracy.[2]

The democracies indices differ in whether they are categorical, such as classifying countries into democracies, hybrid regimes, and autocracies,[3][4] or continuous values.[5] The qualitative nature of democracy indices enables data analytical approaches for studying causal mechanisms of regime transformation processes.

Democracy indices differ in scope and weighting of different aspects of democracy, including the breadth of core democratic institutions, competitiveness and inclusiveness of polyarchy, freedom of expression, various aspects of governance, democratic norm transgressions, co-option of opposition, electoral system manipulation, electoral fraud, and popular support of anti-democratic alternatives.[6][7][8]

Prominent democracy indices


Indices measuring aspects of democracy

Other measured aspects of democracy include voter turnout, efficiency gap, wasted vote, and political efficacy.[18][19]


Maps of indices

Further information: Democratic backsliding by country

Difficulties in measuring democracy

Because democracy is an overarching concept that includes the functioning of diverse institutions which are not easy to measure, limitations exist in quantifying and econometrically measuring the potential effects of democracy or its relationship with other phenomena—whether inequality, poverty, education etc.[28] Given the constraints in acquiring reliable data with within-country variations on aspects of democracy, academics have largely studied cross-country variations, yet variations in democratic institutions can be large within countries. Another way of conceiving the difficulties in measuring democracy is through the debate between minimalist versus maximalist definitions of democracy. A minimalist conception of democracy defines democracy by primarily considering the essence of democracy; such as electoral procedures.[29] A maximalist definition of democracy can include outcomes, such as economic or administrative efficiency, into measures of democracy.[30] Some aspects of democracy, such as responsiveness[31] or accountability, are generally not included in democracy indices due to the difficulty measuring these aspects. Other aspects, such as judicial independence or quality of the electoral system, are included in some democracy indices but not in others.

Some measures of democracy, notably Freedom House and Polity IV, deploy a maximalist understanding of democracy by analyzing indicators that go beyond electoral procedure.[32] These measures attempt to gauge contestation and inclusion; two features Robert Dahl argued are essential in democracies that successfully promote accountable governments.[33][34] The democratic rating given by these mainstream measures can vary greatly depending on the indicators and evidence they deploy.[35] The definition of democracy utilized by these measures is important because of the discouraging and alienating power such ratings can have, particularly when determined by indicators which are biased toward Western democracies.[36]

Dieter Fuchs and Edeltraud Roller suggest that, in order to truly measure the quality of democracy, objective measurements need to be complemented by "subjective measurements based on the perspective of citizens".[37] Similarly, Quinton Mayne and Brigitte Geißel also defend that the quality of democracy does not depend exclusively on the performance of institutions, but also on the citizens' own dispositions and commitment.[38]

Critiques of measures of democracy

Data on democracy, and particularly global indices of democracy, have been scrutinized and criticized by various scholars. Gerardo L. Munck and Jay Verkuilen questioned various aspects of the data produced by Freedom House and Polity, such as the concept of democracy they measured, the design of indicators, and the aggregation rule.[39] Political scientists Andrew T. Little and Anne Meng "highlight measurement concerns regarding time-varying bias in expert-coded data" such as Freedom House and V-Dem and encourage improving expert-coding practices.[40] Knutsen et al.[41] didn't see evidence for time-varying bias in their expert-coded data and note the application of item response theory, factor analysis and estimates of uncertainties to limit expert biases while discussing concerns in operationalization of observer-invariant measures of democracy.

See also


  1. ^ Geissel, Brigitte; Kneuer, Marianne; Lauth, Hans-Joachim (2016). "Measuring the quality of democracy: Introduction". International Political Science Review. Sage Publications. 37 (5): 571–579. doi:10.1177/0192512116669141. ISSN 0192-5121. JSTOR 26556872. S2CID 151808737. Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  2. ^ Greenwood, Shannon (2022-12-06). "Appendix A: Classifying democracies". Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  3. ^ Dobratz, B.A. (2015). Power, Politics, and Society: An Introduction to Political Sociology. Taylor & Francis. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-317-34529-9. Retrieved Apr 30, 2023.
  4. ^ Michie, J. (2014). Reader's Guide to the Social Sciences. Taylor & Francis. pp. 95–97. ISBN 978-1-135-93226-8. Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  5. ^ "Democracy data: how do researchers measure democracy?". Our World in Data. Jun 17, 2022. Retrieved Apr 17, 2023.
  6. ^ "The 'Varieties of Democracy' data: how do researchers measure democracy?". Our World in Data. 2022-11-30. Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  7. ^ "Breaking Down Democracy". Freedom House. Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  8. ^ Democracy and Autocracy, Why do Democracies Develop and Decline, Vol. 21(1) June 2023, Democracy and Autocracy Section, American Political Science Association
  9. ^ "Democracy Index 2021: the China challenge". Economist Intelligence Unit.
  10. ^ "Democracy Report 2022: Autocratization Changing Nature?" (PDF), V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg
  11. ^ "Governance Report". BTI 2022. Retrieved Apr 17, 2023.
  12. ^ "The Global State of Democracy Indices". International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Retrieved May 26, 2023.
  13. ^ William Ide (11 January 2000). "Freedom House Report: Asia Sees Some Significant Progress". Voice of America. Archived from the original on 4 December 2013. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
  14. ^ "Freedom in the World". Freedom House. 2021-02-01. Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  15. ^ Laakso, Markku; Taagepera, Rein (1979). ""Effective" Number of Parties: A Measure with Application to West Europe". Comparative Political Studies. 12 (1): 3–27. doi:10.1177/001041407901200101. ISSN 0010-4140. S2CID 143250203.
  16. ^ "Failed States FAQ". the Fund for Peace. Archived from the original on 2010-11-18. Retrieved 2007-08-25.
  17. ^ "The Gallagher Index –". Retrieved Apr 3, 2023.
  18. ^ Karp, Jeffrey A.; Banducci, Susan A. (2008). "Political Efficacy and Participation in Twenty-Seven Democracies: How Electoral Systems Shape Political Behaviour". British Journal of Political Science. Cambridge University Press. 38 (2): 311–334. doi:10.1017/S0007123408000161. hdl:10036/64393. ISSN 0007-1234. JSTOR 27568347. S2CID 55486399. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  19. ^ "Internal and external political efficacy - Government at a Glance 2021". OECD iLibrary. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  20. ^ "Democracy-Dictatorship_Index". Kaggle. Jul 17, 2020. Retrieved Apr 3, 2023.
  21. ^ "Home". Democracy Ranking (in German). Feb 12, 2017. Retrieved Apr 3, 2023.
  22. ^ "Polity IV Project". Table footnote. Archived from the original on 4 May 2020. Retrieved 11 Jan 2020.
  23. ^ "Boix-Miller-Rosato dichotomous coding of democracy, 1800-2020, version 4.0 - bmr". Retrieved Apr 17, 2023.
  24. ^ Skaaning, Svend-Erik; Gerring, John; Bartusevičius, Henrikas (Apr 26, 2015). "A Lexical Index of Electoral Democracy" (PDF). Comparative Political Studies. SAGE Publications. 48 (12): 1491–1525. doi:10.1177/0010414015581050. ISSN 0010-4140. S2CID 16062427.
  25. ^ Democracy Report 2023, Table 3, V-Dem Institute, 2023
  26. ^ "Global Dashboard". BTI 2022. Retrieved Apr 17, 2023.
  27. ^ Cheibub, José Antonio; Gandhi, Jennifer; Vreeland, James Raymond (April 2010). "Democracy and dictatorship revisited". Public Choice. 143 (1–2): 67–101. doi:10.1007/s11127-009-9491-2. JSTOR 40661005. S2CID 45234838.
  28. ^ Krauss, Alexander (January 2, 2016). "The scientific limits of understanding the (potential) relationship between complex social phenomena: the case of democracy and inequality". Journal of Economic Methodology. 23 (1): 97–109. doi:10.1080/1350178X.2015.1069372. S2CID 51782149 – via CrossRef.
  29. ^ Dahl, Robert A., Ian Shapiro, José Antônio Cheibub, and Adam Przeworski. “Minimalist Conception of Democracy: A Defense.” Essay. In The Democracy Sourcebook, 12–17. Cambridge, MA, MA: MIT Press, 2003.
  30. ^ Schmitter, Philippe C. and Terry Lynn Karl. 1991. "What Democracy is.. . and is Not." Journal of Democracy 2 (3): 75-88
  31. ^ Esaiasson, Peter, and Christopher Wlezien. "Advances in the study of democratic responsiveness: An introduction." Comparative political studies 50.6 (2017): 699-710.
  32. ^ Coppedge, Michael, Angel Alvarez, and Claudia Maldonado. 2008. "Two Persistent Dimensions of Democracy: Contestation and Inclusiveness." The Journal of Politics70 (3): 632-647.
  33. ^ Samuels, David. “Chapter 3: Democratic Political Regimes.” Essay. In Comparative Politics. New York: Pearson Education, 2013.
  34. ^ Clark, William Roberts, Matt Golder, and Sona Nadenichek Golder. “Chapter 5: Economic Determinates of Democracy.” Chapter. In Foundations of Comparative Politics, 351–92.
  35. ^ Högström, John. “Does the Choice of Democracy Measure Matter? Comparisons between the Two Leading Democracy Indices, Freedom House and Polity IV.” Government and Opposition 48, no. 2 (2013): 201–21. doi:10.1017/gov.2012.10.
  36. ^ Piironen, Ossi. 2005. "Minimalist Democracy without Substance? an Evaluation of the Mainstream Measures of Democracy." Politiikka 47 (3): 189-204.
  37. ^ Fuchs, Dieter; Roller, Edeltraud (2018). "Conceptualizing and Measuring the Quality of Democracy: The Citizens' Perspective". Politics and Governance. 6 (1): 22. doi:10.17645/pag.v6i1.1188.
  38. ^ Mayne, Quinton; Geißel, Brigitte (2018). "Don't Good Democracies Need "Good" Citizens? Citizen Dispositions and the Study of Democratic Quality". Politics and Governance. 6 (1): 33. doi:10.17645/pag.v6i1.1216.
  39. ^ Gerardo L. Munck and Jay Verkuilen, “Conceptualizing and Measuring Democracy: Evaluating Alternative Indices,” Comparative Political Studies 35, 1 (2002): 5-34.
  40. ^ Little, Andrew T.; Meng, Anne (2024-01-11). "Measuring Democratic Backsliding". PS: Political Science & Politics: 1–13. doi:10.1017/S104909652300063X. ISSN 1049-0965.
  41. ^ Knutsen, Carl Henrik; Marquardt, Kyle L.; Seim, Brigitte; Coppedge, Michael; Edgell, Amanda B.; Medzihorsky, Juraj; Pemstein, Daniel; Teorell, Jan; Gerring, John; Lindberg, Staffan I. (2024-01-11). "Conceptual and Measurement Issues in Assessing Democratic Backsliding". PS: Political Science & Politics: 1–16. doi:10.1017/S104909652300077X. ISSN 1049-0965.

Further reading